I've read most, but not all, the posts in this thread, and get the general drift of both sides of this issue, but want to add some thoughts for all of you to ponder.
First of all, I suspect those that say front brakes can't/won't work, are merely a later generation of the same people who resisted disc brakes, automatic transmissions, power brakes, power steering, anti-lock brakes, etc., at the time of their inception.
I think it is obvious that front brakes, or rear, for that matter, on ZTR's will not save the operator in all situations. There will be, eventually, someone killed on a ZTR with ROPS in place and wearing his or her seatbelt. It is inevitable, as there are simply too many variables in the real world for any one device or system to insure safety under all conditions. It is the same with airbags and seat belts in our autos. They don't save everyone, but they do save some. I think that is the point that Ted is trying to make, that any improvement over the current system of no brakes in a positive thing.
As for the issue of operating in unsafe conditions, especially in the context of slope recommendations by mower manufacturers, anyone with any experience in this field realizes that ALL ZTR's are capable of safe operation at much greater degrees of incline than those stated by most manufactureres. Those recommendations are simply required in todays world of litigation to avoid lawsuits. Same with all the warning stickers on everything you purchase today. We all know that blade is under there spinning, but if there isn't a warning sticker, some idiot will try to blame the poor bloke who made the mower, instead of their own stupidity.
Shoot, many of us would probably never get a whole yard mowed if we went strictly by the safety recommendations of our mowers manufacturer.
Also, I'd like to point out that with any wheeled vehicle, the idea is never for any brake to lock in an emergency situation (hence the develpment of anti-lock brakes), but to merely slow the vehicle while maintaining some type of control. Just as on ice, once your tires break traction, either by locking up, or spinning, you have no control. That is the inherent danger evident in ZTR's. The weight transfers to the front tires when going downhill, and while the hydro operated rear wheels are very efficient at braking, it is also quite easy, and natural, in a panic situation, to over-power the machine, causing the wheels to break traction, and begin spinning in reverse. The more panicked the operator becomes, the more power he or she tends to apply, worsening the situation. Same thing people do with brakes on vehicles. The more frightened they become, the harder they push on the brake. That is why anti-lock brakes have saved countless lives and accidents. They are emotionless, and simply do their job no matter what you are getting ready to run into.
Most of the time, if one were to simply allow the levers to return to the neutral position when you start sliding, you would regain enough control to have some dynamic braking and steering control, but most people don't get into these type situations on a regular enough basis to react correctly. They simply do what works great on level, dry turf: Yank back on the levers. If you don't believe me, put your Z on a steep hill nose down (where you can't hit anything if things go wrong), and simply hold the levers in neutral. Initially, you'll start picking up speed, but eventually, you'll start feeling the braking effect of the hydros.
I applaud Ted, as I applaud all of those who see a problem, and are willing to try and develop a solution. Will front wheel braking ever be mainstream or mandatory? Who knows? Will they prevent all accidents? Obviously not. Would they, eventually, save one life? Inevitably. And if that one life is yours, or your spouse's, or that of a close friend, wouldn't they be worth it? Neill
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